All about Discounts
I would love to sit here and tell you that the cruise lines give discounts because they love certain groups of people and really, honestly want to be nice to them. That would be a lie and I'll never do that to you. You may not like what I have to say but you can count on it being the truth.
Cruise lines discount for one reason and one reason only: to fill up the ships.
You see, the cruise lines biggest goal right after safety is sailing with full ships. That's right, when they talk about our safety being important, they mean it. But right on the heels of safety comes occupancy. They have GOT to sail with full ships to make the money they need to make all their dreams come true. Empty berths generate no money. Don't let me paint this picture in a negative way at all. This is just business, good business, and most of the cruise lines have this mastered.
When a sailing opens for booking, from that moment until the day of sailing, the cruise lines have a pretty good idea of how it will sell. They know from experience that on a given ship saiing a certain itinerary at some time of the year that booking "patterns" will be followed. For the most part. Economic events, World news, and other unpredictable factors can influence booking patterns. The tragedy of 9/11, for example, dealt some horrible cards for all parts of the travel business.
The cruise lines know that discounts attract business. Everyone wants a good value. Some people want a "cheap price". Those people are headed in the right direction but not getting the big picture. Those who want a "good value" have clearly seen the way to go. A cruise for $199 may sound like a real steal until one reads the fine print and sees that there are several hundred dollars in port charges, taxes and fees. Oddly, those people will still buy often for the bragging rights to say "I got a great deal on a cruise; it was just $199!" That's just plain stupid.
Value is what it is all about.
Discount Internet cruise brokers were popular up until recently when now savy cruisers realized "value" was more important than cheap price. For about 5 years, it seemed that all was lost for travel agents and that they would be replaced with Discount Internet cruise brokers. At some point though, the tide turned when a growning number of cruisers realized that a price was paid for that dirt-cheap cruise fare. A price that was often too high.
Lack of service, hidden costs and junk fees, bankruptcy, unethical business practices and more spoiled the wonderful world of the Discount Internet cruise broker to where they had a reputation just under that of Shady Used Car Salesman. The final blow that signaled in no uncertain terms how unprofessional these Discount Internet cruise brokers were was when Royal Caribbean made the announcement that they were going to refuse to sell to organizations that they viewed as "card mills", a sales organization of the likes of pyramid schemes.
Then, all of the sudden, the travel agents who weathered the storm saw business picking back up as now savy cruisers realized there was more to planning a successful cruise than just finding the low price. Guided by a skilled travel professional who's goal was to form a life-long business relationship with his or her clients rather than "make a quick buck", cruisers found a "friend in the business" who was looking out for their best interests, helping them every step of the way.
One of the ways these travel professionals helped was by finding, identifying and applying any and all discounts available to each of their clients. This was something the Discount Internet cruise brokers would have nothing to do. Oh, they watched prices and discounts alright, most commonly pocketing any savings for themselves. Even when a client would call them to ask if they would get them the new, lower price they saw advertised on the cruise line website, for example, they refused.
In other words, smart people find and use a good travel agent, one that specializes in cruises most commonly. Stupid people buy exclusively from Discount Internet cruise brokers.
A good travel agent with your best interests in mind will take full advantage of the discounts being offered at any given time. Here they are and how they work:
These are most comonly given to states from which the cruise lines are not drawing a lot of clients. The contagious satisfaction of going on a fabulous cruise is what they want to spread. In a virus-like manner, cruisers like to talk about thier cruise. They'll tell anybody about it. If the topic comes up in the office, the grocery store, church or with a complete stranger, everyone who has done it has a story to tell. Most all of them (95%+) are happy stories. If the cruise lines can get people talking in a state or country where they don't do a lot of buisness, those people will sell it for them.
Royal Caribbean is the king of Resident Discounts, offering them most often. Princess comes in second with "regional discounts" . Others are hit and miss but none of them offer a resident discount all the time. Most common state to get a resident discount: Florida. There are a lot of ships and a lot of people who like to cruise and can do so often in Florida.
Senior Discounts- they're not for everybody
The basic rule of thumb is that at least one guest in a cabin must be 55 or older to get a senior discount. Be aware though, this is not like the movie theatre; not every cruise line gives senior discounts. Those that do don't all the time. Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity commonly give a discount for seniors when they need to fill up a ship. That's not only as they get close to sailing either.
Often, when a sailing first opens up for booking, a senior discount comes along. Later, if a sailing is not selling as well as the cruise lines had anticipated, they may offer a senior discount again
Last Minute deals
Don't count on them. They exist for those who can sail with as little as 30 days notice. As recent as several years ago you could bank on last minute deals being there to the point where you could almost book airfare for a particular cruise on a given date but NOT buy the cruise until 30 days before sailiing at a reduced rate. That really never was a very good idea as the ship could sell out then you would be stuck with airfare to nowhere. Now, its a stupid move as the majority of ships DO sell out early.
Again, filling up the ships is good for business. If they can do it and benefit those who may have put their own lives in harms way to protect us, all the better. Carnival offers this most often but others do as well. Again, none of the cruise lines offer it all the time on all sailings but do ask your travel agent if you qualify. Active or retired as long as you have proper ID, you can get it for your entire cabin. Sometimes you can get it for more than one cabin.
Past Guest discounts
This is a very popular, common and appropriate discount. The cruise lines want to keep you coming back and will often make it worth your while to sail again and again with them. Perks, amenities and even pricing in some cases are afforded to repeat guests. After you've sailed a line, you are then a past guest. Record your past guest numbers and be sure they get entered into your bookings. Your good travel agent will keep these on file and use them to your advantage. Your Discount Internet cruise broker will most often fail to apply them to your booking even if you have them available.
How to find out about the deals?
Sign up for everyone's mailing list. Get an email address other than the one you use for your regular daily email. Go to every cruise lines website and sign up for their mailing list. You will be the first to know of specials, discounts and extra-value sailings being offered. Using an email address like @gmail.com or @yahoo.com keeps the junk mail you eventually will get as the cruise lines sell your email address to others.
Want to know if your "deal" is legit? Email it to me and I'll tell you